Innovations That Inspire

Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub

Recognition Year(s): 2024
School: Sprott School of Business, Carleton University
Location: Canada

The Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (BEKH) is a collaborative, co-generated, and high-quality data and knowledge platform that reflects the state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada, for which information is underexplored and fragmented.

Call to Action

BEKH is one of three pillars in the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) funded by the federal government of Canada. BEP was born out of the recognition that Black entrepreneurs in Canada faced extreme inequalities and systemic barriers. The COVID-19 pandemic both exacerbated and highlighted disparities in access to capital, networks, and resources in the Canadian business landscape.

The impact of these disparities has been particularly devastating for small businesses, which constitute a significant proportion of Black-owned businesses in Canada. Despite the substantial contributions of Black entrepreneurs to the Canadian economy, it is important to acknowledge the systemic barriers they still endure, such as discrimination, inadequate access to capital and networks, and unconscious biases. Barriers like these limit the growth and success of Black entrepreneurs and contribute to the underrepresentation of Black-owned businesses in the Canadian economy.

Moreover, the data on this topic are fragmented and underexplored, making it difficult to fully comprehend the challenges and opportunities present in the Black entrepreneurship ecosystem. BEKH was created to build a robust knowledge base on the state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. It focuses on closing the gaps in information, research, and statistics about Black entrepreneurs and the businesses they are engaged in, as well as their needs for business support, access to funding, and business and technical know-how to help their businesses grow sustainably into the future. New insights will help create a more inclusive and equitable business environment in Canada.

Innovation Description

BEKH provides a comprehensive understanding of the state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. A critical pillar in Canada’s Black Entrepreneurship Program, BEKH is a data and knowledge platform co-led by Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business and the Dream Legacy Foundation. It engages a vast network of Black entrepreneurs, nonprofits, community organizations, academic institutions, and researchers.

The governance structure of BEKH includes a lead hub, regional hubs, regional Black community organizations, Pan-Canadian Black community organizations, an advisory board, and a research advisory committee. The BEKH model is innovative in that capacity is built in the community and supported by the regional hubs to reflect the unique priorities of each region. The hubs centralize local research that dissects the expectations and aspirations of Black entrepreneurs, thus ensuring data that are relevant, impactful, and better informed for policy decisions and programs.

The hub model is a sustainable ecosystem where researchers, community members, government agencies, and other valued contributors collaborate on research to increase entrepreneurs’ access to capital and resources. Moreover, active regional partnerships and network-building help advance socioeconomic change for intersectional groups, including women, racial minorities, gender-diverse individuals, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ members, and other marginalized groups. It is truly a synergistic approach to research and learning. This large-scale endeavor is a critical contribution to Canada’s greater acceptance, support, and understanding of the challenges and gaps that Black entrepreneurs and the community face.

Innovation Impact

Through BEKH, Black entrepreneurs and their allies can access valuable information, resources, and networks to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship. The hub also provides a platform for researchers to conduct evidence-based inquiries that can inform policies and programs aimed at promoting Black entrepreneurship. By working together, the BEKH community is creating a more inclusive and equitable business environment, enabling Black entrepreneurs to thrive.

During its first year, BEKH established six regional hubs and research platforms, secured additional funding for development and growth, initiated a community-led symposium for idea creation, and actively engaged with community-serving organizations and bodies such as Statistics Canada, Business Development Bank of Canada, and Export Development Canada.

In its second year, the central hub will continue coordinating and aligning regional hub visions and fostering the co-creation of research ideas with community and academia. Furthermore, BEKH aims to undertake three large-scale studies to better understand Black entrepreneurship in Canada and address the insufficiency of information on the topic.

First, a quantitative study will be conducted in broad partnership with Statistics Canada, Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada, and several academic institutions and community partners. This study will address the dearth of numerical data around Black entrepreneurship. Second, a qualitative study will generate personas, which serve as an effective storytelling mechanism, to add nuance to our understanding of Black entrepreneurs and their lived experiences. Third, ecosystem mapping will create a network and a geographic map of Black entrepreneurs as a means of fostering business visibility, sustained connections, and entrepreneurial support.

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